No matter what budget you have, choosing the right web agency is critical in making sure that your money is well spent. There are many web designers, agencies and companies that you can choose from around the world (starting with your local area like Shrewsbury, Shropshire) to the wider area like the West Midlands or from the whole of the UK and beyond. A lot of businesses depend heavily on their websites to deliver goods and services and to get new customers. By presenting the right image and putting your business online in the correct way, you will enable your business to grow and flourish. Otherwise, there is a great risk that new customers will not find you, or perhaps not get a very good initial experience of your brand. It’s therefore very important to choose the right hands to put your trust and your business in, as the process can be confusing, worrying and exciting.
To avoid making mistakes, or minimise the risks, this article will help you to make the right choice in selecting your next web design provider:
- Location - Are they UK based?
In the modern age of the internet, your service provider can be based anywhere in the world. However, if your web designer is in a different time zone, they will work different hours that may not suit your business. You will find that you don’t have the service or support at the time it's needed. In addition, there will be language and cultural barriers. You may find it difficult to convey your ideas and your requirements to them clearly. Or, they may implement your business process in a way that’s not suitable for the UK market.
Some web companies may out-source your project to web devlopers or designers in another country. You need to ask if your website will be developed in UK. If not, ask how they will control the quality of the work and how fast problems can be fixed if there is ever an issue with your website.
- Strength of their portfolio
Normally a web agency’s website will present their best products/work in their portfolio page like this one. Take your time and examine each of them so that you can gain an idea of their skill sets, the diversity of their clients, the testimonials (if there are any) and the quality of the work. You should click into each example and ask yourself these questions:
- Is the example website working correctly and does it look professional?
- Is it fast to load?
- Is the website W3C validated? You can check whether it is validated or not by inputting the website domain name here
- If you are looking for a responsive website, is the website working properly on a mobile or tablet?
- Do you see any features you like or dislike?
- Does the website look correct in different browsers? When your website is built, can it be viewed in Internet Explorer Version 7, 8 or 9, or in Safari, Chrome, Firefox, Opera?
- Size of the company
If you find a provider that is a sole trader, you may find their quote cheaper because they will have much less over-head: they may just run their business from their garden shed or bedroom. However, they may not give you a reliable service although they may try their best. They may be ill or on holiday, or may change their mind about their career and decide to go to another country. You will be left high and dry and on the lookout for a new developer. Therefore, it’s better to find an established web design company where a team will take care of you and your website and this may offer much more legal protection as most agencies will have some kind of Professional Indemnity Insurance.
However, the size of the company is NOT an indication about the quality of their work. Many small design agencies have got talented individuals who prefer working in friendly small groups than the larger high-volume outfits.
- Background of the company
It's important to know everything about the company you will work with in the future months or years. Pay them a visit or pick up the phone and see if you can get on with them. Look at their About page and see who they are.
- What’s the background of their developers and their graphic designers? Does their key developer have a strong technical background?
- Did they respond to your enquiry in a timely fashion?
- Do they know what they are talking about? Give them a phone call and ask some simple questions such as, "Can you build me a website that has good a Google ranking in England?"
- How long have they been in business? Are you comfortable to work with a company formed only yesterday?
- Asking for ideas
Tell them briefly what you want for your new website and see if they can give you some recommendations. The sales person in the web company may show you some examples of previous work and, if they are competent, give you a few build options to meet different budgets. Always make sure you understand the detail of any proposal and ask for clarification on any aspects of their ideas that you are unsure of.
- Asking for a quote
If you are happy with your findings, you will need to write a brief to ask for a quote. The better your brief is, the more information the web design agency will have and the more accurate the quote will be. If you don't provide enough information, it's possible you may be over-charged. You may be under-charged as well but in this case, you may find some of the features you wanted are not there as the developer has to work under the quoted hours. You can use a Project Planner form provided by the web company to send your project brief.
In many cases, you may not know exactly what you want. In this case, you can tell the agency what websites you like and the objectives of the new web project. The agency will write a quote and list prices for different items so that you can choose features according to your budget. This is particularly useful when you are trying to build an ecommerce website but not totally sure what you want. You may be after discount vouchers, up sale products, user logins, order history, group discounts, or product search by different features. You may also want to integrate your online shop with Sage Accounts Software such as Line 50 to minimise back office work. Or you may want your products to sync to your eBay/Amazon shop.
If you want to start simple and build it up in the future when you have more cash, you need to ask if your website is going to be 'scalable' right at the beginning. A developer can build your website in a way so that future upgrades are easier. This will cost slightly more but you will find you save a lot in the future (so that your website doesn't need a total rebuild!)
- Examine the quotes and choose one
When you receive your quotes from different companies, here are the questions you need to ask:
- Is the design bespoke?
Or just a standard off-the-shelf template? If you just want a template, the cost should be much lower but you won’t have a unique identity on the internet – someone else may have the same design! More importantly, the design will not be tailored to the look of your business or to suit the marketing messages of your business.
- Will your website have a self-management facility for content update?
If your website is going to have a content management system (CMS), you will be able to add/remove/edit pages yourself and control the whole website's content. It’s a little bit more expensive to build compared to a 'static' website, but it will save you money in the long run, as your web company will charge you each time you need an update to a static website.
- How many design proofs will be provided?
Normally agencies will provide you with a few alternatives of the design so that you can choose/modify. Some companies may only provide one but work closely with you to get the desired look and meet the business objectives.
- Domain and hosting cost?
Normally the domain and hosting price will be stated separately.
You have to make sure that the domain name is registered under your own name so that if you need to leave your web company for any reason, you have control of your domain name. A .co.uk domain is not expensive and can be about £10 per year. Hosting prices are quite different depending on how much space and features you need.
- Support and bug fixes?
Does the quote state that if there are bugs in the website, they will be fixed for free? If so for how long will the bug-fix be free?
- Does it include search engine optimisation (SEO)?
A website needs to be built with SEO in mind. And each page should have meta tag facilities at least. Many web agencies will have to separately quote for SEO work as it is an on-going practice and the SEO service will normally be charged monthly.
In most cases, you have to provide your content for the website. The web company will build a system so that you can input your contents and products. Some web companies will provide a copywriting service as well if you don’t have the skills to create your own content. Some companies will also offer to put your content into the website. You need to ask what the charge will be and ask if the quote includes these services or not.
Many customers forget to ask about this. As a shrewd customer, you need to ask if you will own the scripts and content of the website. Some web companies will state the codes belong to the web company, not the end client. So what you are paying for is to use their codes, not to own it. This can provide a huge problem when you want to move your website to another hosting provider. You will find yourself being locked down and can't move because the web company will not release the codes to you. Plus, if you want a developer from another company to change your website, it's impossible as the new developer will not have access to the codes.
If your website needs lots of images and text provided by the web company, you need to ask about the source of the images and text, to ensure that your website doesn’t violate any copyright laws.
You may decide to ask for quotes from several service providers for your next web project. But remember NOT to make your decision purely based on prices. You need to know what product you will get, and more importantly, what service you get after the website has gone live.
- Is the design bespoke?
Good luck with your new venture. If you have more questions, please give us a call or click here to send a message. We will give you a friendly and no-obligation reply!
Categories: Web Design